Carter leads Mississippi State past Florida International
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Tyson Carter had a game-high 23 points to lead Mississippi State to a season-opening 77-69 win over Florida International on Tuesday.
Iverson Molinar had 14 points and Reggie Perry added 13 for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have won seven straight season openers and are 5-0 in openers under head coach Ben Howland. Mississippi State now has won 23 straight home games versus non-conference opponents.
Devon Andrews led Florida International with 16 points while Trejon Brewer had 13. Eric Lovett and Osasumwen Osaghae also finished in double digits for the Panthers with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Florida International steadily chipped away at Mississippi State and trailed just 62-60 with nine minutes left in regulation. But Molinar’s three-point play with 7:35 remaining ignited a 9-0 run by the Bulldogs to put the game away.
“That was a tough opponent and what we expected,” said Howland. “Our half-court defense was outstanding in the first half, but we got tired towards the end of the game. We also got off to a slow start, offensively, and every bounce that could’ve gone wrong went wrong for us in the first 10 minutes. But I was proud of our great finish to the first half and we knew Florida International was not going away. They have a senior-laden team and won 20 games last year.”
Carter was 8-of-16 shooting from the field and connected on 5 of his 9 attempts from 3-point territory. But he wasn’t happy about Mississippi State’s turnovers and he was responsible for eight of those 18 turnovers.
“I got some open looks through the offense and I just took the shots,” said Carter. “But their pressure got to us and we also had 18 turnovers. We just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I think we got tired late, too, and that contributed to some of those mistakes. So, I know I have to be in better condition.”
Mississippi State and FIU traded leads in the opening six minutes and were tied three times during that stretch. Jacob’s second 3 pointer of the first half gave the Panthers a 23-16 advantage with 9:39 left before the break.
But the Bulldogs used their size advantage on the boards and forced 12 first-half turnovers to close out the half. Carter’s buzzer-beating layup before halftime helped the Bulldogs explode for a 20-5 run to close the half and a 40-30 halftime advantage.
Mississippi State shot 59.3% from the field while the Panthers shot 42.9% in the first half. The Bulldogs held a 15-13 rebounding advantage in the first half, and also had six steals before the break.
“Mississippi State is going to be good and they are good,” said Florida International head coach Jeremy Ballard. “But I am proud of our team. We all know we didn’t come here to play a close game and we came here to win. We came up short, but we didn’t come up short because of a lack of effort. We showed our identity as a team and we also showed we have a lot of areas to improve in.”
For the game, Mississippi State shot 54.4% from the field and held the Panthers to 46.7%. The Bulldogs were 10 of 17 at the free throw line while Florida International was 6 of 10. The Panthers made just 7 of 26 attempts beyond the 3-point arc and were outrebounded 36-28. The Panthers also had issues with turnovers and had 17 for the game, including nine in the second half.
Florida International: Coming off a 20-14 season that included a postseason tournament (CBI), the Panthers have bulked up the early schedule and have several other non-conference challenges against Power 5 programs. Florida International will play at N.C. State next week and have a trip to Minnesota in December.
Mississippi State: With a relatively young backcourt, the Bulldogs will need increased scoring and leadership from senior Tyson Carter. Junior point guard Nick Weatherspoon is suspended for the first 10 games of the season, so Carter is at the point in the meantime. Carter looked solid in the opening win with seven boards, six steals and three assists though he committed eight turnovers.
Florida International: The Panthers open their home schedule Friday against Division 2 Ave Maria.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs continue a season-opening, four-game homestand on Friday, hosting defending Southland Conference champion Sam Houston State.